7-11-21 Sermon

July 11, 2021 Mark 6:14-29

O LORD, mercifully receive our prayers and praise today as we call upon You, and grant that we may know and understand what things we ought to do. Please grant us the grace and power to faithfully accomplish them; through Jesus CHRIST our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever. Amen.

This account of Herod Antipas and John the Baptist comes “sandwiched” between the sending out of the disciples and their return to Jesus to report what they had done. While this passage about the death of John the Baptist might seem to be out of place, the disciples spread the name of Jesus, and Herod came to hear about it. So far in chapter 6 we’ve seen the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth, and the faithfulness of the disciples to advance the kingdom of God.

Herod Antipas divorced his first wife and went on to marry his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. Herodias abandoned her husband Philip to marry Herod Antipas. , of course, is wrong on many levels. But this is probably not a topic you’d bring up in polite conversation. John the Baptist denounced the marriage. From a worldly perspective, John had nothing to gain and everything to lose by this action. But it was the right thing to do.

The Kingdom of God is not built on polite conversation. It is built on the reality of God’s work in a fallen world. Redemption is messy. God has come to save people from all sin and real sin. reading from Mark awakens us to God’s work. Mark tells us Jesus sent His disciples to tell people to repent. The disciples also cast out many demons and anointed many who were sick and healed them. Then Mark reports how the disciples went back to Jesus from their mission. “The disciples returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught”.

In between, however, we are told about Herod and John the Baptist and a girl who dances seductively with the final outcome being the prophet’s head on a platter. Why does Mark tell us this sordid tale while the disciples are out in mission?

First, Mark wants us to know that the preaching of the Kingdom of God will awaken real guilt, for real sin, in the lives of real people. It’s quite common for people to distance their faith from real life. For many people Christianity is a teaching, or a confirmation class we go through, rather than a release from horrible sin to new life we never knew existed.

Did you notice how Mark tells us that the preaching of the apostles awakened a memory in Herod? “When Herod heard of it” – that is the preaching and the works of the disciples – “he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded has been raised.”

God is a living God, and He works by His Word to awaken our conscience to sin, in a world that rejects Him.

Herod’s tale is certainly disreputable--repugnant, but so is mine and so is yours. Apart from CHRIST there is no end to the evil we would do. Even in CHRIST, we have had times when we have struggled and fallen.

True Christianity is more than a matter of knowledge. True Christianity experiences sorrow for sin and the blessed grace of forgiveness, at the hand of Jesus who comes to save people like us.

While our “good manners” prevent us from talking about our sins, the conversations we have with God are just as sketchy as that of Herod’s. God wants us to name our sins, with full transparency and no justification for our actions. Redemption is messy, and it’s costly. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “CHRIST Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost—the primary.” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Mark also wants us to know that the mission of CHRIST is messy. In fact, it’s often deadly. The annual number of Christians who die for their faith, averages about 130,000. That would be a daily average of about 350, according to organizations that focus on the persecuted Christian church like Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors International. number does not include criminal acts, war, accidental death, or suicide. It is the number of Christians specifically targeted and deliberately killed for being a Christian.

What happened to John the Baptist for proclaiming God’s Word, foreshadows what will happen to Jesus. and what happened to Jesus is a picture of what will happen to His disciples as they take up their cross and follow Him. But God still works in the midst of this mess.

As seeds grow in the soil, there are things about the beginning of life that are hidden from our eyes. Saving mysteries happen underneath the surface that no one can see. God’s work is mysterious. Salvation comes even in suffering. As Jesus suffers and dies, He bears God’s real wrath for our real sin. In His resurrection, Jesus reveals God’s real life which rules over His Kingdom and can never be shaken.

God is still at work in peoples’ lives! The prophetic word changes people for the better in spite of evil and tragedy. God is able to work goodness, life and salvation in this world in preparation for the next! By His grace and with the help of the Spirit, we are able to live for Him! Amen.

 

 
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